Nick Hackworth

Which way will the judges go?

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

The Chapman brothers are favourites with William Hill at 6-4 and by rights they should win. They have engaged more effectively and intelligently with the culture of contemporary art than any other artist of their generation and they have done so with an appealing sense of humour that serves to undermine the pomposity and absurdity of the art world. If that is not enough, the brothers deserve to win the £20,000 prize for the fact, alone, that their work doesn’t go down well in America.

But have the bookies got it right? Probably not. “Judge for yourself” is the strapline on the Tate’s publicity material, but the decision, far from being in the hands of the public, falls to four invited judges, with Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, as chairman.

This year’s arbiters are: Richard Calvocoressi, director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Frank Cohen, one of the most prominent collectors in Britain after Saatchi; Chrissie Iles, curator at the Whitney Museum, New York; and Andrew Wilson, deputy editor of Art Monthly magazine.

This distinguished list suggests that work deemed to be weighty and serious will carry the day at the expense of the Chapmans and Grayson Perry (currently second favourite at 2-1), who will be dismissed for being gauche and silly. Iles is a specialist in video art and so likely to go for the only video artist included, Willie Doherty.

Calvocoressi is more into early 20th-century art than contemporary work and has a serious bent of mind that suggests he will plump either for Doherty or Anya Gallaccio.

Wilson’s vote is harder to call since, as well as liking heavy conceptual and theoretical art, he has written on Perry and was an early supporter of the Chapmans. Cohen, too, may stick up either for Perry (some of whose work he owns) or the Chapmans.

But then there’s Serota, who will have enormous influence despite his nominally neutral role. His favour is likely to fall upon either Doherty or Gallaccio. The piece that
Doherty is showing in the exhibition, Re-Run, has been bought by the Tate for a rumoured £50,000; and Gallaccio exhibited some bare tree trunks in the hall of Tate Britain earlier this year. Neither would have happened without the approval of the Big Chief.

As Doherty has been nominated before and has more of a serious international standing than the others, he emerges as the insider tip for victory, at the respectable odds of 7-2. Risk a pony on Gallaccio, also at 7-2, and you may be set up to profit nicely. Betting may be fun, but this year’s result will be a joke.

... and the contenders are:

Jake and Dinos Chapman
Jake, 37, and Dinos, 41, are notorious for mannequins with dildos for noses and sphincters for mouths. They are thinking of changing their names by deed poll to Goya.

Willie Doherty
Derry born, 44-year-old photographer and video artist inspired by the politics of Ulster. Unfairly branded an “IRA artist’ when first nominated for the Turner in 1994.

Anya Gallaccio
Glaswegian, 40, specialises in decay — melting ice, dissolving pillars of salt, chocolate-painted walls and rotting fruit.

Grayson Perry
A 43-year-old happily married transvestite with an 11-year-old daughter, Perry makes vases that satirise middle-class morality.